Raytheon has been awarded a US$375m (A$523m) contract by the USAF Research Laboratory (AFRL) to develop and produce a new miniature self-defence missile.
The US contract award announcement is short on details, but is thought to be a follow-on from development of the AFRL’s Miniature Self-Defence Munition (MSDM) program for which Raytheon was awarded development funding in 2016.
The goal of MSDM was to field a brace of small self-protection missiles with kinetic hit-to-kill capabilities aboard high-value asset aircraft (HVAA) such as AEW&C, tankers, and large cargo aircraft to protect against surface and air-launched missiles in the terminal phase of flight.
AFRL briefing slides show the “extremely-agile, highly-responsive” MSDM as being about one metre long – about one-third that of an AIM-9X – and thus would provide a “minimal impact to platform payload capacity”.
The vulnerability of HVAAs has been highlighted in recent years with a greater emphasis being placed by potential adversaries on the development of anti-access/area denial (A2AD) capabilities such as long-range interceptors, advanced air-to-air missiles, and strategic surface-to-air missile systems.